Growing Up with Inappropriate Parents

Parents are the most powerful force in a child’s life molding them into the humans they will become as adults. With the appropriate amount of parental guidance and love, children grow up to be healthy both emotionally and physically.

However, what happens when parents are not consistent in their affection or in the rules they set for their children? What happens to these children? These questions and more are what this article is going to explore.

What are Good Enough Parents?

Before we examine parents, who are incorrect in their parenting style, we must first take a look at parents who do a good enough job in rearing their children.

The concept of a good enough parent was first conceptualized by Bruno Bettelheim in his book A Good Enough Parent published in 1987.  He built his idea upon the work of Donald Winnicott whose work was concerned with mothers and coined the term good enough mother. Bettelheim, building on Winnicott’s work generalized the concept to include mothers and fathers.

Below are some further attributes of good enough parents.

  • Good enough parents feel and show respect for their children and try to understand who they are and what they need.
  • Good enough parents are concerned for the child’s experiencing being a kid rather than with what they will be when they grow up.  
  • Good enough parents provide and help their children gain what they need and carefully measure out to them what they want.
  • Good enough parents understand that they are adequate parents, but they are always willing to admit when they make mistakes.
  • Good enough parents form and maintain consistent rules for every child in their care.
  • Good enough parents work together to ensure a continuity of experiences for their children.

Signs of Inappropriate Parenting

Inappropriate parenting has many adverse effects on children as they are individuals who require care and nurturance from their parents. There are several behaviors that stand out when dealing with a bad parent including those on the following list.

Reprimanding the Child Too Much. If a child does something wrong, they deserve to be reprimanded but in proportion to the offense and not in a negative and harmful manner. Reprimanding a child excessively has its most devastating effect when the child has confessed to making a mistake.

Too Much Advice Without Encouragement. Bad parents dispense advice about everything in their child’s life including how they look and what they wear without a word of encouragement. Without encouragement from their parents, these children will grow up guessing if they are good enough or not and feel out of place wherever they go.

Parents that Discipline Their Child in Front of Everyone. These parents might scold, yell, or hit their children in the presence of others causing the child humiliation and seriously impacting their self-confidence. Behaving in this manner, parents impact their child’s confidence and overcoming the shame from this type of discipline is difficult.

Withholding Affection from Their Children. Children thrive on good affectionate touches from their caregivers. They cannot be told I love you enough. Withholding affection will cause children feel disconnected and alone.

They Do Not Set Permanent Rules for Everyone and Following Through. The same rules should apply to every child as appropriate for their age with exceptions being rare. When a rule is broken a consistent discipline needs planned beforehand by the parents that they both can agree upon and execute so that the child receives the same treatment from each parent.    

The Importance of Rules for Children

Children thrive on rules. Rules make them feel safe, comfortable, and like they belong. Without rules, children become lost and do not know what to do or how to regulate themselves or their behavior.

Consistent rules are essential for children to reap all the benefits their parents have to offer them.  You do not want one parent setting a rule and the other allowing that rule to be broken or the child is lost in a morass of confusion with real life consequences later.

For children, learning involves internalizing, rehearsing, and repeating their actions much like when they learn their ABCs. When parents are consistent in their rules and reactions children now what to expect and feel secure. Children will continue to push the buttons of the parents pushing them as far as they can and testing their rules, but consistency makes the child feel safe enough to explore their world with confidence.

The Consequences to Adults Who Had Inappropriate Parenting

The United Kingdom’s Department of Education in 2011found that children who received inappropriate parenting are twice as likely to be delinquent than those who received good enough parenting. Inconsistent discipline, poor supervision, and physical punishment are attributes of poor parenting that affect children into their adult years. As adult, inappropriate, or inadequate parenting leaves the person open to behaviors that lead them to committing crime and a lower economic status.

Adults who received inadequate parenting as children also demonstrate antisocial behaviors and do not consider how their actions are harming others. Severe manifestations of this antisocial behavior include substance abuse, poor health, mental heath challenges, unemployment, and the committing of crime.

Parents who were inappropriate and inadequate often lack resilience and thus do not pass it on to their children. Resilience refers to a person’s ability to cope with and bounce quickly back from a wide range of life challenges such as coping with social, emotional, behavioral, and physical problems. As adults, these children grow up with inflexibility and the inability to handle change and failure well. They tend to cope by expressing their emotions negatively thus ruining their relationships.

How to Overcome Your Upbringing by Inappropriate Parents

There are no magic fixes. It may take working hard with a mental health professional to overcome growing up with inappropriate parents especially if they were highly abusive in some way.  

The only way to overcome the treatment you received is to change the way you think. Begin by celebrating the wonderfully paradoxical samples set for you by your parents.

While it may sound too simple, the way to overcome your upbringing by inappropriate and inadequate parents is to ask yourself what you have learned from living with them and do the opposite.

I may get crucified for this next statement, but it is vital to your healing.

Stop seeing yourself as the forever victim of your childhood and take responsibility for your life and seize back the power you left with your parents when you grew up. You are no longer that hapless, helpless little girl or boy who couldn’t leave your home. You are an adult capable of building the life you dreamed about when you were little.

Take the world by the horns, and live.  

We don’t develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”– Barbara De Angelis

The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.”– Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

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